By NICK MEYERS
Pima Community College’s longest serving board member has stepped down after 20 years representing Pima County’s 5th District. Marty Cortez announced her resignation in a letter to Pima County Superintendent Linda Arzoumanian on June 26.
Arzoumanian appointed Martha Durkin, Tucson’s deputy city manager, as Cortez’s replacement on Aug. 29 to serve until the end of 2016 and will appear on the election ballot in November 2016 for a two-year term.
“Pima Community College students are the best hope for our community because economic development requires a skilled and educated workforce. Through credit courses, workforce development, career training programs, continuing education, and adult education, Pima Community College provides an invaluable resource to the region,” Durkin said in an email sent by Chancellor Lee Lambert to members of the college.
Durkin has been involved in Tucson politics for 30 years advising Pima County, the City of Tucson and Tucson Unified School District concerning employment law, procurement and contracts.
Arzoumanian believes that Durkin’s background will contribute to the challenges faced by the college in the coming years.
While a final decision for replacement was left to Arzoumanian, a group of seven people acted as an advisory committee to conduct interviews for potential candidates.
The committee consisted of Alec Moreno, Mays Imad and Don Harp representing students, faculty and staff, respectively. Valenzuela Estrada, Kelly Fryer, Yolanda Herrera Phil Lopes represented community members residing in District 5, a local business leader, Mark Hinrichs as well as District Superintendent H.T. Sanchez.
The committee interviewed five applicants on Aug. 28 landing on Durkin as their final recommendation.
Cortez was first elected in 1994 and re-elected four times, most recently in November 2012 for a term lasting until December 31, 2016.
“For personal reasons, I am submitting this letter of resignation from my position as board member of the Pima Community College Governing Board representing District 5 to be effective as soon as possible,” she wrote.
The Faculty Senate cited Cortez along with current board members David Longoria of District 2 and Scott Stewart of District 4, as well as former board member Brenda Even as having failed to “recognize and act ethically” in regards to the issues under the Flores administration and highlighted by the Higher Learning Commission.
The petition never garnered enough support to cause board members to defend their position and they have remained key figures in Pima’s decision-making process since.
Board chair Sylvia Lee called for the resignation of Cortez and the other board members in 2013 but ultimately reflected positively on the time they served together.
“In the over two years that I have worked with Marty on the board, I greatly admire her commitment to PCC and the Tucson community,” Lee said in an email to the Daily Star.
“We are grateful for Marty’s long years of service, and her remarkable commitment to Pima Community College,” Lambert said in a press release.
Cortez formerly served as a school principal within many Tucson high schools before becoming an academic program advisor at Northern Arizona University. She is currently still involved with the University of Arizona Hispanic Alumni Club where she sits on another board.
Cortez received several accolades throughout her tenure including the Hispanic Professional Action Committee Woman of the Year award, YWCA Woman of the Year award and was named a “Woman of Influence” by Inside Tucson Business.
“I have full confidence that Chancellor Lambert has and will, with the support of the Board and dedicated college employees, continue to move the College forward in providing educational opportunity for thousands of individuals as well as contributing to the business and economic growth of the community.” Cortez said in her letter.
“It has been an honor to have served as a Pima Community College Board member over the years.”